Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Me and Rio rocking out in Texas sunshine

We made it safely back to Mississippi this afternoon after a whirlwind trip between Christmas and New Year's Day.  Sis took off for San Antonio to have late Christmas with her kids, grandkids, and great grandbaby.  My Sister by Another Mother and I held down Fort Rio and took care of the parents.  It was tag team at its finest.  After all this time, my biological sibling Sis can manage Dad, Mom, Tinka, Rio, cooking, laundry, and the household chores for up to 4 days--if she has to. Fortunately, that has not happened except during a couple of ice storms.  I suppose most of us could do what we had to when it was a matter of life and quality of life for those we love, though I think some of us would even do it for strangers if circumstances thrust themselves upon us.  You know, like an ice storm or some other catastrophe.
Three shifts have to be covered every day, and due to unforeseen circumstances, we had one person...and me.  Now while I can do a whole lot of things and have a wide and varied skill set these days, there are some aspects of Dad's care that I do not know how to do because it has not been necessary since the first time he came home from the hospital with a broken hip and it was necessary.  Would I do my best if need be?  Of course I would, and we would manage just fine.  But Dad does not do well with change at this point and unless it is absolutely necessary, we avoid forcing him to deal with new experiences in the routine.  SbAM is really great with dad, having been with us for a little over 2 years now, and though young, is smart and a quick learner, and knows his quirks and how best to deal with them as it relates to caregiving--and better yet, he likes her and trusts her.  The deal was if she just took care of Dad, I would take care of Mom, Tinka, Rio, house, cooking, and dishes.  It is one thing to do all of that on an 8 hour shift, and quite another to do it for 24 hours, 3 days straight.

I sat in Dad's room every night and watched old movies with him, just being there in the chair so if he woke up from a nap doze, he could see me or talk to me.  Sis does that with him every night and I wanted to keep the routine as routine as possible.  He does not like to be alone, nor not be able to see us or hear us.

It was a hard week in so many ways, but it was also one of those times that you appreciate and honor, and for which you are thankful.  It is part of the cycle of life, and when you can embrace it, even in the hardness, even in the painfulness of impending unknowns and potential loss, it offers joy if we can have the heart to see it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The time of year for threes

 Yesterday I had to go in for lab work at 8 AM, and it seemed like the perfect time to head on up the road to Memphis while I was up and dressed.  I made the rounds of my three intended stores and back home by 4 p.m.  I splurged on some pecan-crusted pork chops about the size of a roast and put them on...about the same time that I remembered R was staying in town for the basketball game...and about the same time that J came out and announced he was going to get Chinese take-out.

Undaunted, I proceeded to sit in the living room with the dogs and music going full-blast, savoring my bit of time while the chops cooked, occasionally dancing to a tune.  My movements seemed to fascinate Abby--the baby of the three and she also danced around me in excitement.  Even though there are 3 dog beds in the living room, all 3 of them finally settled on one together.  It might be a metaphor for life.
Later, after my delicious dinner, followed by a mini pumpkin cupcake with buttercream and caramel frosting, I texted with my sister.  Sis and I have been discussing the new family information I found this past week, and some new resources.  Mother at 89 is pretty much the last of her family of origin, except for a few distant cousins.  While she grew up, as did we, with frequent contact with the extended family, she did not know much about those before her grandparents' generation other than their names.  That task has fallen to me, and has taken on a level of fascination as I have uncovered the journeys of the ancestors to the Colonies that would later become the United States of America.  Family history has always reported that we were descended from Scottish and English.  While that is true in the sense that some of the ancestors did live in England for a period of time, I have been able to discover Irish roots as well as Scottish.

I told my cousin the other day--as she and her sister have also been doing parallel research on her father's side of the family as well as her mother's who is the sister to my mother--that the more I find, the more I am seeing my "carefully constructed identity" take on new meanings and new clarity.

The ancestors tend to have that effect on me.  Since I take it as true that life is a construct, in that we "make it up" for how we understand everything, I find myself wondering what I might have constructed had I known some of this earlier.  The thing about assimilation of new information is that generally, if we can fit it into what we already know, we do not have to spend much time with it.  If not, and we find we have to develop new information and meanings in order to accommodate this new knowledge, it takes a little longer and might even be uncomfortable or difficult.

I find myself these days listening to women who are near my age or older, as they speak about their experiences of constructing lives and meaning in a time of "traveling uncharted terrain." Several years ago, I heard an interview done with Patti Scialfa, and last night, I ran across it again.  At the time, she was 54, and said she wanted to write songs that reflected her in this stage of her life.  I think for many of us who are reaching this point, and we are now all 10 years beyond the date of the interview, there is a certain nostalgia for some of the moments of our younger selves, while at the same time there is a sense of anticipation for what might lie ahead.

Can we be comfortable with that?  Can we be comfortable with being uncomfortable with the new identities that may be forged from these transitions?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Could you direct me to the telephone booths, please?

 I had just stepped off my flight after landing at New Orleans Shushan Airport...it was sunny, but cool...a typical New Orleans March day...in 1934.  The terminal was new, and so was I...a green and untested journalist-wanna-be.  
Excuse me, could you direct me to the telephone?  I need to call my editor.
I am certain I detected a subtle roll of his eyes as the porter nodded toward the left...and then the right.  Take your pick, lady--either side gets you there.

 My hands were shaking as I dug through the coins in my change purse, grasping the crumpled number in my hand.  Luck was with me, and all three booths were empty.
I pulled the door closed behind me, and sat down.  This could take a while.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

"Sure, go on in." Messina's Runway Cafe

 Peering through the glass at the stunning Art Deco stools, I was startled by a voice that said, "You can go inside; it's open."  Because pretty much the entire airport looked rather deserted, I was not expecting that.  All I can say is those New Orleaneans know how to do an airport.

A restoration/renovation project was recently completed, and a mid-century Art Deco gem has been saved.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Segregated Burials--Updated

 While searching for family ancestors on my recent trip to Texas, Sis and I found ourselves at the South Bend cemetery nearing sunset.  This was not my first exposure in Texas cemeteries of a distinct line of segregation for burying those of Mexican descent.
 Three isolated graves, next to the fence in the most remote portion of the cemetery--all three were born and died around the same time--birth in the late 1880s, and death in 1926 and 1927.

I did not really expect to find any information about these three individuals, nor why they were in South Bend at the time of death.  The Narbais name is found in Argentina.  Fernandz spelling is found in California, Florida, and Colorado as well as other isolated locations, and there are many Casas throughout Southwest Texas.

There were many farms and ranches located in the South Bend area of Young County, and it is probable that these individuals worked on one of the farms or ranches.  Vaqueros in Texas were highly regarded for their horsemanship and cattle skills.  I will keep up the search as time permits, but for now, my day job calls me.

December 9th update:  I spent more time searching for information on these Young County residents--who died in the years immediately after and the same as my parents were born in the area.  My ancestors would have/could have/probably did know these individuals--or at least who they were--because they were living in the same area at the same time. I am still not even close to learning about their lives, but I did locate some ancestry information for records of those born or baptized in Mexico, as well as other information on Latino ancestry in Texas.  I cannot connect Anastacio Casas with those of the same name that I located, but I did find several in Texas with similar dates of birth, and also several leads on Francisca Narbais.
 Additionally, when looking back through photographs, I realized I missed the 4th grave in the group: Francisco Garrisalez.  Based on the similarity of the tombstone design and the dates of death of the others and what appears to be the top of a 9, 2, and 7, I speculate that Senor Garrisalez' date of death is 1927 also.

That raises a new question of why did four persons of Mexican/Latino descent die during the same general time period in South Bend, Young County, Texas?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Skunk 1, Sisters 0

When I got home Thanksgiving week, sis advised a skunk was under the house. She had been taking Tinka out on a leash after the first night that Tinka ran over in a full charge and got a snootful of eau de Pepe Le Pew.  She had closed off the crawl space and winterized the opening with the foil sealant.  Sis underestimated the skunk, who merely pushed the foil seal aside and went on his or her merry way.  

The following day, we added the large rocks and I secured them with metal stakes so they could not be rolled away or dislodged.

Later, I went out to check...and duly noted the little critter had chewed a hole in the board that has blocked the crawl space for years, and climbed over the rocks.  He probably even thanked me for making his entrance more secure.  Cue the Internet search for skunk removal.

The trick according to the University of Nebraska professor whose scholarly paper on skunk removal (I am not kidding here--yes, a scholarly journal article, but I like to trust my sources of Internet information) gave the following suggestions:
Pour flour around the opening during daylight hours.  After dark, examine the flour for footprints leading away from the opening.  Once you determine the skunk has exited from under the building, secure the opening with sheet metal and metal stakes.
We sprinkled the flour around the opening, and checked after dark for foot prints.  Between the dew moisture and the wind, we could not be sure there were any footprints.  I suggested we rake away all the leaves, remove the rocks again, and then try again.

Things always seem to have a way of happening, do they not?  Every day brought a list of things that were more pressing and by the time the end of the day would come, or dark, we were no longer much inclined to go outside and battle skunks, and would put it off until the next day.

Friday I packed and loaded to leave for the trip back to Mississippi, so there went the last opportunity.  I confess, I did not want to risk an encounter with eau de Le Pew and then have to drive 12 hours with it.  Ah, the joys of country life.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Talking to Rio

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Returning from Rio

...the one in Texas.  I spent the week in Texas, in the land without Internet.  Sometimes, that is not altogether a bad thing.  I will catch up soon.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Chaos and Calm

Things have been a discordant pile of chaos lately, in almost any realm, haven't they?  It can be hard to try to sort out what is real and what is illusion.  Sometimes, we do not even know what it would look like if it was real, so there we are stuck with an illusion of an illusion of real.  
The whole "get up and go to work" thing has gotten to be a drag: It is the same thing day after day, with only minor scene changes.
On the other hand, perhaps that can be a good thing.  How do you find the calm in your chaos?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Thank you to 37 Paddington for posting this.  I cannot stop listening...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Rocking out at the Old School Theater

My friend and colleague Amy Fisher told me about a new music venue in Water Valley--just a short 20 minute drive away.  Luke was playing, along with "world music trio" Agora and Kevin Guyer and the FMA R&B Revue.

Date night was on!  We went down to Water Valley in time to eat at El Charrito's--our long time favorite Mexican restaurant for the last 13 years.  We pulled into the parking lot, which was empty of cars, and so was the building.  What?  I know it has been a while since we have been here, but....but...

The show started at 7, and that rapidly narrowed our options.  We drove down the street toward Sonic, when looming out of the evening twilight was a new, and larger, El Charrito's!  Mmmm...tacos al carbon for me.  While we were paying out, Rand asked, "So, when did you all move?"  Cinco de Mayo was our grand opening.  Okay, so it really has not been that long since we were there.

Old School Theater is located in the old 1949 Administration Building of the former Jeff Davis School.  I knew the theater was in the area of the former school, but the address had identified it as in the Melon Vine Marketplace, and the photograph with the long porch across the front of the building meant it looked a lot different from the last time I was there, photographing the old National Youth Administration constructed vocational building that sat behind the school.  On walking in, there was no mistaking the auditorium directly in front of us.  Even prior to the show, I was sold, because someone saw the important of preservation and re-use of buildings lots of folks would just as soon demolish for a quickie pre-fab with a fake veneer.

The new music venue is the work of Foster Music Arts, and an effort to promote regional music in the Water Valley area.  Opening was the very talented songwriter/singer, Luke Fisher.   If you have never heard Luke in a venue with good acoustics, and people listening to music rather than talking loudly, you have never heard Luke.

Agora--Acoustic World Music Trio features Andres Diaz, Amy Fisher, and Ricky Burkhead. Andres Diaz has the most amazing voice and sings in Spanish, Portuguese, English, and French.  I was literally dancing in my seat.

The last set of the evening was Kevin Guyer and the FMA R&B Revue, a group local musicians who actually played together in performance for the first time last night--although they had rehearsed previously.  Guyer and Bays play in the linked video, but you really needed to be there for the stage full of musicians.  After a little bit of everything rock, blues, and soul thrown in, the entire cast of the evening closed out the show featuring Luke rocking out on electric guitar and singing lead vocals.

I have to say that I have not left any event in a long time with the sense of joy, uplift, and downright pleasure and peace as I did leaving that old school auditorium last night.   I will be at the next show. I'm gonna get my funk on again.

Friday, October 21, 2016

George Rodrigue's Blue Dog: "The blue dog is New Orleans"

Probably most of us have seen a picture somewhere of George Rodrigue's Blue Dog.  If you were like me, however, you did not know who George Rodrigue was, or how he came to paint the Blue Dog paintings.  The 8 foot version of the 3-sided sculpture Rodrigue finally figured out how to create in 2003 stands in the outdoor sculpture garden at New Orleans City Park.  A larger version is on Veterans Boulevard.
Rodrigue originally painted the bluish-grey dog for a book of Cajun ghost stories.  His 1984 painting of the first "Blue Dog" used Rodrigue's former dog, Tiffany, as the model for the outline of the dog's shape.  The painting, named Watchdog, became the first in a series of evolving blue dogs.
Rodrigue's wife, Wendy, on her blog Musings of an Artist's Wife, wrote that the evolution of the blue dog was:
...not some overnight epiphany...metamorphosis was slow.
I think that is true of so many of our best ideas and visions--it evolves as we evolve in our understanding and purpose.
Somehow, the 3-sided sculpture he envisioned, but had not fully developed how to carry out until 2003, seems to best represent that evolution and 'metamorphosis' in the most parallel manner.  See more of Rodrigue's work at his studio site.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Libby says hey

 It's been pretty busy here in Lottabusha County, what with all that has been going on personally and professionally of late.  I have said several times that I thought I would try to incorporate both blogs (Lottabusha County Chronicles and Suzassippi, formerly known as Suzassippi: Red Shutters).  Obviously, I cannot make that break.  I might say that it baffles me as to why not, but it does not baffle me at all.  While I do on occasion post something more personal on Suzassippi, generally when I have been home and tending to Rio and the family, it has always been more or less the "architecture and old buildings" blog.  This one has been--also for pretty obvious reasons--Suzassippi's Lottabusha County Chronicles, which incorporates a lot more of who I am and charts the journey of my time in Mississippi.
When I first began the Chronicles, it was pretty much about social work, and social issues in Mississippi, coupled with dog, cat, and family philosophy, a whole lot of symbolism, and reaching for greater understanding with and among my fellow travelers of the universe.  Like the rest of life, it has evolved and changed.

Some things have been steadfast throughout the process, and I prefer to think that one of those is my desire to understand and to learn, and then to use that understanding to make a difference where ever that opportunity might present itself.  I know that I know things from my experience, knowledge, and training about what it takes to be effective in this work.  I also know that I need to set that knowing aside, and just hear what the person in front of me is saying about what she needs to move forward, while at the same time, providing enough support and challenge for the person to learn and grow.

It is a tough challenge.  I am fortunate to be working with 2 colleagues in researching this skill, need, ability, process, in hope of furthering that understanding for what we need to do to develop this capacity in our students.

Sometimes, the helpful philosophy of my dogs (or on occasion, my cats, but cats are way less philosophical than dogs are--just totally pragmatic most of the time in my opinion) helps to center me.
Let me think about that for a minute....no, I see no need to go there right now.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Blue Heron in City Park

We spied this blue heron in City Park a couple of weeks ago.  

And yes, this was just a little creepy.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Window at 24 No. 3rd Street

Who tends these little pots of herbs on the balcony of 24 No. 3rd Street?  What sorts of foods are flavored with snips of the basil, oregano, and rosemary seeking sun light on a street shadowed with tall buildings from the 1800s?

The "Hulick Mansion" was built in 1885 in Second Empire Style for Derrick Hulick, partner in the wholesale grocery company of Drake & Hulick.  It is part of the downtown historic district of Easton, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Stable and Potts Barn at Washington's Headquarters

 The stable is adjacent to the Isaac Potts house where Washington headquartered during the winter encampment at Valley Forge.  The stone walls were the only remains of the original structure.  It was erected circa 1773, and restored in 1975 (Valley Forge National Historical Park, Environmental Impact Statement, 1980).
The structure is a one-story masonry stable constructed with unusual refinement in the stonework...At present, the building helps to delineate the historic scene around Washington's headquarters.

Potts Barn, just beyond the stable, was remodeled for use as offices and restrooms by the park service.  The barn is composed of "stuccoed rubble fieldstone walls" and was built "sometime between 1760 and 1820."  It was remodeled in 1928.
Some sense of the original building remains in the proportions, size, fenestration, rounding of the four internal corners of the stone walls, and hand-hewn roof framing.  Further research is recommended to detail the history of the building and to establish its relative significance.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Monday, September 5, 2016

Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge

 General Washington headquartered at Valley Forge in the Isaac Potts house.  Up to 25 people lived in the house throughout the encampment that winter.  Martha Washington lived there for 4 of the 6 months, along with Washington's officers, aides, and the household servants.
 Although the house dates to 1773, the train station visible in the background was not constructed until 1913 as a stop for the Reading Rail Road.  For a period of time, visitors to the park could actually arrive by train.  It currently serves as a museum, housing artifacts related to the encampment.

 The kitchen wing was the domain of Hannah Till, a slave who cooked for Washington and his crew.  Largely untold for most of history, her story is now incorporated into the narratives about the winter encampment at Valley Forge as portrayed by the National Park Service.  Hannah Till spent 7 years with the Continental Army before she gained freedom.  She moved to Philadelphia and died at the age of 102.  Another lesser known aspect of the Continental Army was that an estimated 5,000 African-descent soldiers served in the American Revolution.  

References:  Lapp, A. (2006). With Washington at Valley Forge.  The Times-News, p. 5F.  National Park Service, Valley Forge.